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A complete beginner’s guide: How to start automating your medical practice

Streamline your operations and enhance patient care.

automate your medical practice

At a Glance

  • Automation in your medical practice can streamline operations, reduce manual work, and enhance patient satisfaction.
  • Identifying and addressing the main challenges in your practice is the first step toward successful automation.
  • Benchmarking your practice against industry standards can help set clear automation goals and improve your efficiency.

Do you want to save time, reduce manual work, and minimize billing errors in your healthcare practice? You're in the right place.

We're not here to explain the ins and outs of automation. If you want to learn more about how automation works, head to this article (and be sure to come right back afterward). 

This article will focus on how automation can attract new patients, retain existing ones, and enhance the patient experience. 

By freeing up your staff to spend more quality time with patients, automation leads to improved patient satisfaction, more referrals, and increased revenue for your practice. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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Practice automation equals less friction 

Practice automation, when done right, is all about reducing friction in workflows. 

Picture this: you and your staff are performing tedious administrative tasks. These tasks include manually moving data between systems and reformatting it using piecemeal tech. You’re doing work that smarter tech could do for you. 

These poor processes cause inefficiencies in your workflows. Friction is high, morale is low. Add to that information overload, and you’re being held back from doing what you’re best at: providing exceptional patient care. 

You don’t need us to tell you that reducing valuable time spent with patients decreases patient satisfaction, potentially leading to patients seeking medical care elsewhere. 

Assess your practice’s needs

We promised a beginner’s guide to start automating your medical practice. So let’s get started. 

1. Identify areas that can benefit from automation

The first step is to identify where the main challenges are facing your practice.

For example, are you experiencing a wave of patients moving to alternative healthcare providers? Think about telehealth solutions or online options, too. Digital healthcare has opened the world to patients, and now they have a wealth of choices at their fingertips. 

To help you pinpoint the challenges causing your practice the most friction, consider whether you’re currently:

  • Clueless about tracking financial performance 
  • Finding attracting the right kind of patients is problematic
  • Experiencing patient payment issues 
  • Spending too long on billing and reimbursements
  • Struggling to educate patients about their insurance options
identify competitors
The first step toward automation is to identify the biggest challenges your practice faces.

These are just a few ideas to give you a starting point. Now, take a moment and jot down the challenges you’re experiencing.

Depending on your challenges, listing them out gives you a clearer idea of the best way to introduce automation. For example, if tracking financial performance is a pain point, automating the process of consolidating and analyzing data sources is a great place to begin. 

Understanding your medical practice’s performance sets the stage for proactive steps forward. 

Where are you most vulnerable?
You can find this worksheet in the free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation.”

2. Conducting workflow analysis 

The next step is to map your friction by identifying every piece of technology that touches your main challenges. 

Inventory your technology
The next step is to inventory all the technology solutions you use. You can find this worksheet in the free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation.”

For instance, spending extensive time on billing and reimbursements is likely due to sourcing information from different systems. So you might currently need your EHR, patient intake systems, preauthorization, claims submission, and billing software to perform these tasks. 

Some challenges will invariably span multiple systems, and as a result, will be more implicated than others. The automation mindset requires you to ask yourself if there are areas where one system change could alleviate multiple points of friction. 

What's causing the most pain?
In this step, think about what systems are causing delays. Where are tasks that make you think that there must be a better way? You can find this worksheet in the free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation.”

3. Setting automation goals/objectives

To analyze your processes and systems further, examine how many hours your practice spends each week on the following:

  • Patient acquisition (business listings, marketing)
  • Reputation management 
  • Patient retention 
  • Scheduling and reminders 
  • Patient communications 
  • Intake
  • Care administration and documentation (e.g., EHR notes, labs, ePrescriptions)
Measure your efficiency
In this step, quantify how many hours your practice spends per week on manual tasks.

Tebra’s 2024 independent provider survey revealed that 61% of providers spend up to 19 hours on administrative tasks each week. 

From there, you may identify, for example, that your focus should be on getting reimbursed and paid faster. Other challenges you may also uncover during your measurements might be billing and insurance complexity for your patients. 

61% of providers spend up to 19 hours on administrative tasks each week. ”

Other pertinent examples include:

  • Spending less time clicking in your EHR 
  • Acquiring new patients 
  • Engaging and retaining patients 
  • Understanding and improving practice performance 
  • Increasing profitability 
  • Simplifying care complexity 
  • Reducing provider or staff burnout

Analyzing your data in this way helps you to set automation goals and focus your efforts on where automation can have the most impact. Once you have your numbers, consider how much time you could save by automating formatting, data transfers, and other routine tasks.

These everyday processes have little to do with patient care, so every hour you spend on one of the tasks above is an hour not spent with patients. You’re potentially missing out on 3 essentials: building patient relationships, providing the best quality care, and earning revenue.

Watch now
Automation can eliminate inefficiencies that impact patient care and growth. In this session, get automation best practices, step by step
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Benchmark your KPIs 

So you now have a good idea of how much time you spend on various processes.

To make a more informed decision about where to start your automation journey, it’s helpful to compare the effectiveness of those processes against some specific KPIs. Measuring the quality of business outcomes your processes deliver against industry benchmarks is a quick indicator of what’s working well and where you should take immediate action.

Tebra surveyed more than 200 independent practices to create these benchmarks. This resource is incredibly useful for your practice to directly compare your success with your peers. 

Let’s explore a couple of industry benchmark examples. You can download the complete worksheet here

Setting benchmarks
Tebra surveyed over 200 independent providers to benchmark industry averages. The complete benchmark guide can be found in the free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation.”

Analyze the minutes you spend on both collecting and entering patient data in your practice. Minutes per patient intake is the KPI for this example, and the industry average is 10 minutes. This detailed information gives you more clarity and may help you to identify if your patient intake is taking too long. Now, 10 minutes might not sound like a lot, but compounded, this workflow can seriously impact your time available for patient care. 

The next benchmark to look at is time spent in EHR. That’s the number of minutes per patient spent in documentation, patient history review, and ordering labs and prescriptions. The industry average is 16 minutes. The top performers from the survey of independent practices spend less than 5 minutes on EHR tasks. 

While it’s helpful to understand your performance against industry benchmarks and to think about solving your challenges holistically, the biggest influence on your automation journey should be: What do you want from the process? What are your goals?

Getting automated

Let’s say you’ve clearly identified that your medical clinic must spend less time clicking in your EHR. You had a feeling that this activity was a time-suck, and now you’ve seen the industry benchmarks, it’s a challenge you must address. 

To do this, check out the following example automation to help you solve this problem (along with some more beneficial examples). 

1. Spend less time clicking in your EHR

You’ve got several solutions for this particular challenge. 

Introducing automation can look like:

  • Using an EHR designed for reduced clicks
  • Integrating EHR with prescription, labs, and other diagnostics
  • Electronically sending and receiving referral information and patient history
  • Integrating digital intake into patient charts
  • Customizing EHR to support frequently used workflows

2. Reduce billing and insurance complexity

The industry average of staff hours spent on manual billing activities per provider is 10. Top performers among your peers spend less than 4 minutes per provider. On top of that, 70% of practices spend less than 10 hours per week preauthorizing procedures and verifying insurance.

If your practice is losing valuable time in this area, this is what you can do to automate billing and insurance:

  • Use a billing system that integrates across the full reimbursement cycle
  • Integrate a billing system with your EHR
  • Introduce robot process automation to hand off repeatable tasks
  • Use a system with a claims scrubber
  • Integrate digital payments for patients

3. Get reimbursed and paid faster

10 to 15% of practices have outstanding balances that are over 120 days (within 1 year rolling). 

The following can expedite reimbursements:

  • Use digital payments and text reminders to increase and expedite patient payments
  • Implement billing automation to flag and correct claim errors, increase clean claims rates, and automatically resubmit claims

4. Save administration time

Many tasks fall under the category of administration. 

Here are some examples of how to reduce the time you spend in this area:

  • Digitize patient intake and sending forms prior to the appointment
  • Use online scheduling
  • Seek a user-friendly digital insurance eligibility tool to verify insurance, check benefits, copays, and coverage levels in seconds
  • Reduce phone call volume through call-to-text features that move communications to text and encourage online scheduling

5. Reduce provider or staff burnout

Ensuring staff well-being is paramount, and smoothing routine processes can certainly improve morale across the board.

Here are some ideas for automating processes to make life easier for everyone:

  • Implement a user-friendly EHR that reduces clicks, can be customized to your workflows, and smoothly integrates with your billing and patient intake systems
  • Use robotic process automation (RPA) to pull EHR information into your billing system and formats

6. Acquire new patients

If this area is currently a challenge for your practice, automation can help increase both your visibility and credibility:

  • Create a search-optimized practice website
  • Integrate patient scheduling into the site
  • Outsource profile maintenance across Google, major aggregators, and review sites
  • Add automated survey capabilities after every visit to gain feedback and reviews

7. Simplify care complexity

This final example is where you can bring all your tools together into a uniform process:

  • Select an EHR with clear, customizable charting options
  • Use tools for ordering labs and prescriptions that integrate with your EHR
  • Use an ONC-certified EHR to allow you to communicate electronically with specialists in other practices

After reviewing your challenges, you should end up with a clearly prioritized list of:

  • What you want to achieve your goal
  • Which tasks and technologies relate to that goal
  • How your current processes related to that goal compare to industry averages
  • What overarching use-case or business problem you need to solve to make progress towards that goal

Consider ranking your goals and grouping them into categories: 1-year objectives, 3-year objectives, and 5-year objectives. 

For instance, if one of your main goals is to reduce billing and insurance complexity, you may decide to lean into automation for tasks like EHR, patient intake, and billing to reduce data transfer in year 1. A sensible progression would be planning to automate routine submission, ERA processing, and data formatting tasks performed by bots by year 3. 

automation roadmap
A sample automation roadmap from the free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation.”

Final words

Are you interested to see how efficient your practice is?

Take the efficiency quiz to find out. You’ll identify the most important areas to focus on to start thinking about automating your practice. 

Then go ahead and download The Ultimate Guide to Practice Automation. Or watch Tebra's webinar on practice automation to learn more.

Get the guide

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Becky Whittaker, specialist SEO copywriter

Becky Whittaker is a specialist SEO copywriter with over a decade of experience and an interest in healthcare and legal marketing. Becky believes that independent practices are critical because they have more opportunities to deliver better patient care and personalize patients’ experiences. She also has a personal connection to the healthcare industry, as her sister-in-law is a pediatrician.

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